Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

The LUI (Language User Interface)

Yesterday’s post mentioned that I found this article (OpenP2P.com: Is Jabber’s Chatbot the Command Line of the Future?) on O’reilly right after discussing how I thought chatbots could become highly useful interfaces.

Today I just want to expand on that concept a bit. DJ Adams already does a great job of pointing out some of the things that bots do on IRC. Not being much of an IRC user, I had no idea that some of these bots could do the things DJ discusses. Among them he mentions note-taking, moderation and information provision.

What strikes me as one of the most powerful features of bots is the fact that they can get to “know” you. SmarterChild knows my zip code so that when I tell it that I want to see a movie the listings are for my neighborhood. A greater implementation of this might give SmarterChild the ability to discern if I’m at work or at home (although I can always change the zip code or even include it in the request). This knowledge is the very thing that search engine companies are all over right now. As was pointed out in Scientific American this month in “Seeking Better Web Searches” though “most people are unlikely to put up with the bother of entering personal data other than that required for their standard search activities.” Here then is your solution. Take the data in a little at a time with a bot.

Amazon’s recommendations are based on your purchases but a bot wouldn’t have to wait for you to buy anything if it coaxed you into telling it that you liked country music. This could occur through casual conversation but could also occur in other ways. A bot that asked trivia questions might be able to infer quite a bit about you.

It starts to get a little spooky for us privacy advocates at first glance but the bot never has to know your name and it’s easy enough to get a new chat account or change it. Since chat accounts are free there’s also no reason to give them your “real” information (i.e. name, address). So all the bot really knows is a zip code and an account name and some preferences — nothing anyone could trace back to you.

Smart agents and an agent web have been talked about for some time, but it looks to me like instant messaging interfaces to bots (and maybe SMS too) might be the interface to finally bring them to life.

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